Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
With the campus parking transition under way, more than a dozen Ohio State employees have found themselves out of work.
QIC Global Infrastructure, an Australian-based investment company, took over all OSU parking operations Sept. 21, in a 50-year, $483 million deal approved last June. While OSU has received the money form QIC, it is waiting for approval from the university Board of Trustees before moving forward with investment plans.
About 70 OSU Transportation and Parking employees were told their positions would no longer exist at OSU as a result of the parking lease. These employees had the option to re-apply for their old job, pursue another position at OSU or leave the university.
“Of those who stayed with the university, they were placed in positions that matched their skills and abilities as closely as possible,” said Lindsay Komlanc, spokeswoman for OSU Administration and Planning, in an email.
Of the 70 employees impacted, five were directly hired by CampusParc, the arm of QIC Global Infrastructure and LAZ Parking that runs parking operations, including Sarah Blouch, who was named the director of CampusParc. In a Monday email, Komlanc said about 50 of those 70 employees remained with OSU. About 20 of those 50 employees went to work with OSU Transportation and Traffic Management, where they work with the Campus Area Bus Service or in customer service and other administrative roles. Transportation and Traffic Management oversees “transit-related services” such as the Campus Area Bus Service, paratransit services and university charter buses.
Other employees, Komlanc said, are working with OSU Facilities Operations and Development or elsewhere within the university.
In an interview with The Lantern, Blouch said the parking transition is “sort of like taking an old business, building it up as a new business, and trying some new things on it.”
Blouch said she hadn’t imagined herself in her new position.
“I would never in a million years have imagined that I would willingly switch. I felt like I was kind of going over to the dark side,” Blouch said.
While many found positions within the university, the transition to privatize parking left some former employees out of work.
“There were about 16 employees who, for various reasons, did not choose to stay with the university or be hired by CampusParc,” Komlanc said. “Those employees chose to pursue other interests, either by retiring or taking a standard severance option.”
While some OSU students have not recognized any changes since CampusParc took over, others have noticed a drastic reduction of staff in parking garages, specifically Tuttle Park Place near Woodruff Avenue.
Yazan Alsmadi, a third-year graduate student in electrical engineering, said a garage with no staff is unacceptable, and automated machines in the garages sometimes create traffic jams.
“People have problems, because the machine is not working well, or they lost their ticket, so they need to spend hours trying to solve the problem, while everyone behind him is waiting. But if we have a student or employee in these parking lots, they could solve the problem quickly,” Alsmadi said.
Alsmadi called the parking deal with QIC a “horrible idea” that is ethically wrong. In his opinion, the university should have asked for more students feedback regarding the decision.
“Why not trust us?” Alsmadi said. “If you compare (the $483 million parking lease) to how much money we pay as a student for tuition and fees, (the amount paid by students) is much, much higher than that … So I believe we have the right to say we like this or we don’t.”
While it is too late for students’ insights, OSU plans to invest the money collected from the 50-year lease.
“What we did is we invested it into various investments along with other money in the endowment. So it’s now out there in fixed incomes, such as bonds and stocks, and private investments,” said Geoffrey Chatas, chief financial officer at OSU.
Although OSU presented a breakdown of the $483 million earlier this year, it is now up to the Board to approve those plans in next week’s meeting. Even though there is a possibility the Board will decide against it, Chatas said he is confident that won’t happen.
“In theory they can change their mind, but they won’t in this case because we’ve already agreed to it,” Chatas said.
If the Board approves the plans, students will see the first effects of the cash distribution next summer, when the money will be distributed to the four different sections, as planned, Chatas said. Those four sections are endowments that include $150 million toward sustainability and transportation, $2.8 million toward student scholarships, $3.5 million toward arts, such as remodeling OSU’s School of Music, and $4.2 million toward the faculty research fund.